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“I think the experience [of online dating] is almost too confrontational for the Japanese,” says Roland Kelts, a Japanese-American journalist, University of Tokyo professor, and author of Japanamerica.
“It’s a culture that still prizes indirectness and a greater level of subtlety.”But I’m more interested in sites designed explicitly to match couples.
In the late ’90s, Catfish-style frauds metastasized at a corporate scale: whole “online dating” offices were set up, staffed by employees of both genders (known as sakura, or cherry blossoms) who played the part of fake women.
Sakura kept multiple cell phones and email accounts.
Such sites aren’t good at marketing to Asian users. S,” he says, “all they do is localize languages, but obviously [Japanese] culture is different.”Minutes after registering, I get my first “like,” from a 26-year-old Kyoto woman named Megumi-san who says she’s using Pairs to find friends.So why is the subject so touchy in Japan, a technologically hip country (their ketai cellphones surfed the Web long before our smart phones) that otherwise seems comfortable discussing sex?Given Japan’s dating and demographic crisis, why the squeamishness about meeting in cyberspace?Yet the messages the app sends your inbox don’t sound as wholesome. Models, nursery school teachers, nurses, nutritionists, college students, office ladies [receptionists]–we’ve got them all! It quickly reassures me that “You won’t see your Facebook friends in Pairs” and “Facebook won’t show your history of searches in Pairs.” It may as well have said, “We know you’re ashamed of using our business, but don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.”“Our design is more for women,” says Takeru Kawashita, marketing chief of Pairs.“Previous deiaikei sites were made with a male mindset.” What he means is that their site is made for husband hunting.